A Quarantine Reflection

A Quarantine Reflection Nancy Cudis Ucag

When I join online meetings, my ears would itch and turn numb each time someone would mention how we must learn to cope in this “new normal,” hence, we must meet online temporarily until current circumstances permit us to do otherwise.


Nobody seems to question the validity of the phrase or doubt the deflated impact that the term “new normal” aims to encompass. There is nothing new about meeting online when 70 million Filipinos are using chat apps to communicate on a daily basis. And there is absolutely nothing normal about a situation wherein I cannot stop, stand in close range, and complain comfortably with a neighbor about the price of rice on my way to the supermarket because I have to brisk-walk my way through all of my errands and come home with an ardent prayer that will last for a week, hoping that I did not contract the virus.


The term is a lie I will use to convince myself that the popular synonym these days for an unacceptable abnormality is “new normal.” While words such as these are normally important for me to make sense of things, I have been too busy processing the magnitude and coping with the effects of COVID-19 on my personal environment to give credence to new word coinage. The busyness has to do with overwhelming simultaneous shifts with the way we think, act, and do things.


A Quarantine Reflection Nancy Cudis Ucag

When the Cebu City government declared the city under a state of monthlong Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) starting March 28, many things hit me at once--when and how to restock food, cleaning and protective supplies, how fast my husband and I can clean the interior and exterior of our home, how consistent the water supply will be, how faithful my parents are to safety protocols while operating a small store in another city, what home assignments to give to my students, when the barangay hall will send out garbage collectors, when to pay our taxes, how many books I have that I can read during ECQ, how reliable the WiFi will be for business, where to get face masks, and how to stretch our budget for a month.


Along with these questions came a mix of emotions eventually overpowered by sickening fear as I failed to gather assurance from the government that is rather lacking in transparent reporting on the gravity of the pandemic, as I grappled with news, made my own evaluation of the situation, and became disenchanted by the lack of answers, and as I turned to humor for comfort and found my laughter not quite reaching the satisfying pit of my stomach.


A Quarantine Reflection Nancy Cudis Ucag

Before I could address my own concerns, my worries expanded to include friends, neighbors, people I know as nodding acquaintances, and even strangers: How soon can N---, sister-in-law of my close friend, get a dilation and curettage procedure after her miscarriage? How did A---, a relative in a far barangay and seamstress of all my childhood dresses and school uniforms, die? How can E---, a neighbor with four little children, survive on a no-work-no-pay arrangement? When can C--- reunite with her family after getting stuck in another town attending to her father’s burial? How did Z--- celebrate her birthday during the quarantine period? How can non-essential stores like Booksale make any sale?


"While I cannot change the fact that the world is experiencing a deadly virus, I can change my attitude toward the situation."

So I refocused my energy on what needed immediate attention and mustered every ounce of strength and optimism so as not to shame the most resilient Filipino. I was spaced out for two weeks, though, before my emotional and mental compass went back on track. Since then, I have been filling my days with planning meals, watching videos on low-cost recipes and actually doing them, sweeping and mopping and doing the laundry, writing down food items to buy in the next grocery trip, talking with my parents and sister on video to talk about retail management and anime, turning away from my social media for several hours each day, watering my potted plants, increasing my time for reading and writing, working on service orders, and checking my students’ papers.


A Quarantine Reflection Nancy Cudis Ucag
Video chat with my parents and sister

A Quarantine Reflection Nancy Cudis Ucag
Books read during the ECQ period

A Quarantine Reflection Nancy Cudis Ucag
Storing food for emergencies

A Quarantine Reflection Nancy Cudis Ucag
Quarantine activities: sewing, reading, drawing

I am essentially keeping myself busy and productive. For all intents and purposes, this is my way of showing myself that while I cannot change the fact that the world is experiencing a deadly virus, I can change my attitude toward the situation. This is my freedom in exercise. I can follow rules and safety protocols even when others can’t. I can stay at home and stay clean. I can wear a face mask and do a supermarket run in less than an hour even when others prefer to loiter in public spaces. I can wash my hands as frequently as possible until my skin cracks from dryness. I can swallow healthy food, exercise regularly, and sleep eight hours each day. I can talk to other people through virtual means. And I can be vigilant about the news on COVID-19 I am getting.


A Quarantine Reflection Nancy Cudis Ucag

I can do these things and more not only because they make the quarantine bearable but also because I rediscovered my capacity to be kind to myself. During these troubling times, I have to take care of myself physically, emotionally, and mentally so that I can take care of my family, continuously express my love for them, accomplish future goals and dreams, help more people, finish my studies, and teach more students. How I take care of myself during the quarantine period will ultimately affect my performance when the COVID-19 pandemic will blow over, when we will either be forced to confront the possibility of reverting back to the overly familiar ways of doing things or work hard to accept a different kind of normal.

Nancy Cudis Ucag


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This story is an entry to ComCo Southeast Asia’s “Write to Ignite Blogging Project”. The initiative is a response to the need of our times, as every story comes a long way during this period of crisis. Igniting and championing the human spirit, “Write to Ignite Blog Project” aims to pull and collate powerful stories from the Philippine blogging communities to inspire the nation to rise and move forward amidst the difficult situation. This project is made possible by ComCo Southeast Asia, co-presented by Eastern Communications and sponsored by Electrolux, Jobstreet and Teleperformance.


16 comments:

  1. A realistic view of the new normal without forgetting the touch of kindness. Congratulations Nancy. More power. ❤️

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    1. Thank you for reading. I appreciate it. Stay safe and healthy!

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  2. As all things in life, I agree that we need to adjust and go with the flow...

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    1. Thank you, Margaux, for stopping by. It's the best we can do at the moment. Yes, we are forced to adjust and adapt. Being resilient people, we can do that, but we must not ignore safety protocols. It's a way of helping ourselves and each other.

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  3. I can relate on more time reading books and catching up with family.... Stay safe dear and everyone! (Virtual hugs!)

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    1. Oh, it's the Mark Monta! I'm honored, dear, for you to take time to read and share your thoughts. I pray that your travel wishes will come true soon. Stay safe, too!

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  4. I really relate to the adjustments that you also went through! As an introvert who enjoys the comfort of being alone-- I can actually go on for days without talking to anyone, but the quarantine made me yearn for human interaction aside from my family.

    That being said, I got to know more about my mother and my younger brother -- little quirks that I never knew existed back then. The pandemic actually gave birth to a new normal in our household; a bond in our family that is now tighter than it was before the quarantine.

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    1. That's the kind of new normal I'll welcome in my personal dictionary anytime. Like you, I strengthened my bonds with special people (my parents and my sister) even when our communication is limited to online. I'm happy for you Miko. And I continue to pray for your safety as well as success in all your endeavors! Thank you for dropping by.

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  5. Always a beautiful piece from you Nance,

    I totally agree with this:
    "How I take care of myself during the quarantine period will ultimately affect my performance when the COVID-19 pandemic will blow over"

    These two mindsets are for me crucial:

    1. "while I cannot change the fact that the world is experiencing a deadly virus, I can change my attitude toward the situation."

    2. "I rediscovered my capacity to be kind to myself."

    I am excited when everything of this is over. For sure a lot of us will become a better person. Virtual coffee cheers and lets read along some time :)

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    1. Thank you, Geezelle, for your kind words. They warm the heart, especially when you pointed out the passages that struck you.

      With the rate of COVID-19 cases in our cities, it is easy, if not quick, to doubt the capabilities of our public (and even private) systems to overcome our ordeal. But we have to learn to protect ourselves in our own capacities. Some things are beyond our control; what we can control instead is our perspectives, attitudes, and behaviors.

      I wish the day will come soon that we can see each other in person over coffee and talk about business and books. For now, I wish for your and James' safety and healthy.

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  6. This is a great and inspiring blog Ms. Nancy. Becoming productive especially during this quarantine period can help us manage our anxiety brought about by the uncertainties of the pandemic.

    Indeed caring ourself to care for others is a good piece of advice.

    Congratulations for another excellent piece of work!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words and for reading my piece and even going as far as making your presence known through this lovely comment. I agree with you. If we choose to be kinder to ourselves, then we can learn to accept the need to take care of our body and mind. Stay safe and healthy!

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  7. This piece is as real as it can get.
    Some people tend to struggle in finding just the right words to justify and describe all the mixed emotions we feel under such a crisis like this. And I'm glad someone has been able to concretely picture out such feelings into words.

    Thank you for also reminding me through this wrote up that yes, it is okay to be afraid, to feel stuck, and to acknowledge all that one gets to feel because of this global crisis. Every feeling is valud, including fear. But, we should always keep pushing and stay hopeful that things will be alright.

    Thank you, Miss Nancy.
    Thank you for the reminder that we should always remain on the bright side, no matter how chaotic things may get.
    One thing we should never lose in this life: Hope.
    Hope for better days ahead and hope for the healing of the people and the world.

    Stay safe and healthy!

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    1. Write* up, I mean. Sorry for the typo.
      Thank you! :)

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    2. Karla, thank you for pointing this out. It took time putting this piece together; it was not that easy. I had to take pauses in between and breathe. I also had to move away from the temptation of putting so many information. I wanted to add more, really, like unfair comparisons of experiences over the years, but at the same time, I want it concise and inspiring.

      It is kindness to hope while keeping fit and working to help others. Indeed, better days await us, and one of those, I'm sure, will be the day I'll see you in person over milkshakes and cakes.

      For now, stay healthy and safe. Before you know it, you are living your travel plans.

      P.S. Don't stress out the typo/s. Hugs!

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